The first game of the Justin Fuente era is almost here as the Virginia Tech Hokies are making their final preparations for Saturday’s season opener at Lane Stadium against the Liberty Flames. While the Hokies are very likely to cruise to victory against the Flames, there are some key matchups to watch that bring intrigue in this matchup for multiple reasons. With that said, here are 3 matchups to watch this Saturday in the Hokies’ season opener.
WR Bucky Hodges vs. CB Chris Turner
Bucky Hodges has made the move in Justin Fuente’s offense from tight end to wide receiver though Hodges may still seem some reps at the tight end spot. However, Hodges’s move likely means Liberty will look to match a cornerback up against and they have a guy with tremendous length for the cornerback spot that should give Hodges a test, sophomore CB Chris Turner.
Turner led the Flames in interceptions as a freshman last season with 4 and this high-profile matchup is a chance for him to catch the attention of any NFL scouts that may be in attendance. With NFL teams looking for bigger, longer cornerbacks; Turner is an intriguing prospect that will be ready to leave it on the field not only because of the magnitude of the opponent but also because of the opportunity to showcase his skills.
For Hodges, there have been times where he just hasn’t seemed to put in the effort consistently to be the elite weapon and All-ACC First Team playmaker that he could be. Hodges has a chance to get momentum this season against an intriguing cornerback ahead of next week’s big showdown in Bristol.
Hodges will also be adjusting to playing more on the outside as a wide receiver instead of working mostly out of the slot or on the line as a tight end. How Hodges adapts against a quality, intriguing opponent in Christ Turner should be very interesting to watch.
OG Colt Pettit/Wyatt Teller vs. DTs JaRon Greene and Tolen Avery
Many were surprised when they heard that Colt Pettit was receiving first team reps at left guard over Wyatt Teller with Pettit set to start Saturday over Teller at the left guard spot. However, many are still skeptical as to how long Pettit will stay ahead of Teller on the depth chart with a lot still believing that Teller will be the starting left guard against Tennessee.
This matchup has the potential to be a test for both players and to see if there really is a gap between Pettit and Teller on the depth chart. These two will also have to deal with a couple of intriguing DTs in returning senior starter JaRon Greene and sophomore Tolen Avery who played some in Liberty’s defensive line rotation last season.
While this Liberty duo will be nowhere near the test of what the Hokies will face in Bristol, both of these players know that a dominant performance would go a long way in helping them start against Tennessee whether it be Pettit playing quite well in his first career start or Teller showing why many have seen him as one of the top guards in the ACC.
This matchup will also show how close the gap between Pettit and Teller may be as how often Pettit and Teller rotate in and out will give us a good feeling just how close Vance Vice sees the top two left guards.
CBs Brandon Facyson and Greg Stroman vs. WRs BJ Farrow and Dante Shells
Virginia Tech’s defense has shifted from having field and boundary cornerbacks to purely left and right cornerbacks allowing the Hokies to either match up a particular cornerback against a particular wide receiver or line it up based on how the opponent lines up. With Adonis Alexander out, Greg Stroman takes one of the top cornerback spots after a very strong offseason next to Brandon Facyson who had a healthy summer and fall camp.
This game will be a tremendous opportunity to see how well Facyson is playing now that he has been able to have a healthy summer and fall camp to prepare for the season. Facyson has had injury issues since after his breakout freshman season and the chance to actually have a healthy summer and fall camp could prove vital for having the best season yet in his collegiate career.
Meanwhile, Greg Stroman added on some much-needed weight this offseason and we’ve consistently been hearing that he has improved tremendously this offseason. There is a chance that Stroman could also start over Adonis Alexander at cornerback in the Battle at Bristol and a dominant performance on Saturday could help him make a strong case to do just that.
Facyson and Stroman will likely match up a lot against Liberty wide receivers B.J. Farrow and Dante Shells who both averaged over 14 yards per receptions last season with both having over 20 receptions on the season. Farrow and Shells have shown they have the talent to be big play and this should be a good chance to prepare for a Tennessee offense that has a talented QB in Josh Dobbs and some talented WRs headlined by Josh Malone.